Kate Riga

Kate Riga is a news writer for Talking Points Memo based in New York City. Before joining TPM, Kate was the political reporter for The Southampton Press. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and a native of Philadelphia.

Articles by Kate

The one-year anniversary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has seen a shift in the GOP’s stance on the probe. Top Republicans are dropping the pretense that they want to give Mueller the time he needs, instead calling for him to wrap it up.

As Republicans get bolder in calling for an end to the probe, a bill to protect Mueller, buoyed last month by some bipartisan momentum, languishes in procedural limbo.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a usually reliable barometer of party opinion, for months has tiptoed the line between appeasing President Donald Trump and respecting the rule of law. Back in March, he told reporters that Mueller should “absolutely” be allowed to finish his investigation unimpeded, adding “I am confident he will be able to do that.”

But on Thursday, Ryan shifted course, telling reporters, “it’s time to wrap it up.”

“I mean, we want to see this thing come to its conclusion, but again, I’ve always said he should be free to finish his job,“ Ryan continued. “It’s been a year, my guess is he’s probably coming to a conclusion.”

Vice President Mike Pence has never been as clear in his support for the probe. Still, in December, he said on Fox News: “So we’ll let the special counsel do their job and continue to cooperate, but we’re going continue to focus on our job, and I think that’s exactly what the American people want us to do.”

But last week, Pence made a comment almost identical to Ryan’s new talking point, telling NBC News: “Our administration has provided more than a million documents; we’ve fully cooperated in it, and in the interest of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up.”

By GOP standards, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been a relatively staunch defender of Mueller’s right to finish his investigation.

“I continue to believe what I believed for a long time: The best thing that can happen for everyone, the President included, is that Mueller be allowed to complete his work,” Rubio said to the Tampa Bay Times in December. “I remain convinced that when this is all said and done, Mueller is going to only pursue things that are true and he will do it in a fair and balanced way.”

But even Rubio has started sounding skeptical. “If there was anything about collusion, it would have been leaked a long time ago and everybody would have been talking about it,” he said on Fox News.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has performed the same shift. In June, Thune called Mueller a “man of integrity” on MSNBC, adding “I think it’s better for all of us if that work continues.”

Thune struck a very different tone on Thursday. “They’ve had months and months to do this, and I think it’s time for them to begin to start winding this down, and I hope that happens sooner rather than later because I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to drag these sorts of things out forever and to become an unending campaign,” he said on Fox News. “It’s my fear that if this starts heading down different rabbit trails, that inevitably could happen.”   

Meanwhile, on the legislative side, a recent upswell of support to protect Mueller and his efforts has petered out.

Last month, the bipartisan bill was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, fueled by a wave of comments from Trump suggesting that a White House effort to end or stymie the probe could be imminent.

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to let it to the floor for a vote has effectively stalled that momentum. And the party’s shift toward a “wrap it up” stance this week suggests it isn’t likely to move any time soon.

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President Donald Trump on Friday morning ratcheted up the intensity of his desire to hunt down the FBI informant who reportedly met with Trump campaign aides before the 2016 election, calling the situation the “all time biggest political scandal!”

Trump has been stuck on the topic since a Wednesday New York Times report, prompting the FBI to set up precautionary measures to protect the source, should Trump’s efforts unmask him or her.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s outside lawyer, seemed out of step with his client Friday morning, airing his uncertainty during an interview with CNN that the informant even exists.

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During a 45 minute interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, President Donald Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani sounded off on topics ranging from the Trump-Russia probe to Martha Stewart’s indictment.

Three moments in the conversation were particularly notable:

1.) On FBI Director Chris Wray’s assertion that the Mueller probe is not a witch hunt: “He’s wrong,” Giuliani said. “I know more about the case than he does.”

Giuliani added that Wray should “disassociate himself from Comey’s misdeeds” and that Wray should only be involved in the investigation to “get the information” and “plug up the leaks in the FBI.”

On Wednesday, in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Wray reiterated his stance that the probe is not a witch hunt, steadfastly sticking to a position in stark opposition to Trump’s.

2.) On the FBI informant who reportedly met with Trump campaign officials in the run-up to the 2016 election: “I don’t know for sure, nor does the President, that there really was [an informant],” Giuliani said. “We’re told that.”

This admission of uncertainty comes as Trump is doubling down on smoking out the informant, causing the FBI to cobble together protection measures for the source, should he or she be compromised by Trump’s efforts.

3.) On Trump’s old accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower: “At one point, the President thought there was a wiretap,” said Giuliani. “We were never notified that he was on a tap,” he added, admitting that there has never been any proof of that claim.

This is the first time that anyone on Trump’s team has admitted that Trump’s often-repeated smear of Obama was specious.   

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President Donald Trump is responding to continued criticism of his “animals” comment by scolding the press for taking his comment out of context.

On Wednesday, Trump himself did not specify that he was only talking about only gang members when he made the comment during a roundtable about sanctuary cities, saying “these aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

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President Donald Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani has confirmed that prep sessions for a potential interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller are sprinkled throughout Trump’s summer schedule, according to a Thursday Politico report.

Giuliani reportedly specified that the briefings will happen over many weeks during off-hours at the White House or at Trump golf courses, after the North Korea summit on June 12.

“I think of it as the way we prepared him for debates,” Giuliani told Politico. “He never liked to be sitting down for long stretches. We’d do an hour here, two hours there. We’d end up doing 15, 16 hours of preparation, particularly for the first debate. But we’d do it here and there. We have to do it over the course of two or three weeks. Maybe at nights, maybe in the morning.”

Giuliani reportedly added that a couple of recent interactions with Mueller’s team has made the possibility that Trump sits down with Mueller more likely.

First, Trump’s legal team has recently been in contact with Mueller’s to negotiate the scope of the interview questions, and both parties have agreed that a stenographer and audio recorder would be present in the room. Giuliani indicated his willingness for the audio from the interview to be publicly released, but per Politico, that decision will not ultimately be made by him.

Second, Giuliani said that he has received assurances from an unnamed deputy that Mueller would not indict Trump. “I don’t see Mueller in a million years doing an indictment,” Giuliani told Politico. “It’s almost a given that the head of state is immune from criminal process. In banana republics they don’t do it. Certainly not in civilized countries with a rule of law.”

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White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s family’s financially troubled property, 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, is close to being saved by a Canadian company with direct ties to the Qatari government, according to a Thursday New York Times report.

The company, Brookfield Properties, is heavily invested in by the Qatar Investment Authority, the second largest investor behind Brookfield’s parent company, per the New York Times. If the deal goes through, Brookfield would reportedly take over the leasing and operations of the building, with plans on the docket for aesthetic changes and elevator installation.

The Times report does not disclose any prices being negotiated as part of the deal. The property is financially drowning after the Kushners bought it over a decade ago for $1.8 billion. It is reportedly only producing half of the annual mortgage, and large swaths of the building sit empty.

This deal would not be the first time Kushner Companies flirted with Qatari financial sources to salvage the property—in 2016, the family was reportedly negotiating a deal with a Qatari billionaire as well as Anbang, a Chinese company. That deal fell apart after being torpedoed by criticism about Jared Kushner’s mixing of his personal business and political role.

Per the Times, this new deal could stir up similar concerns, especially in the wake of Kushner’s loss of his security clearance due to the concern that foreign agents could manipulate him through his business interests.

Kushner resigned as chief executive of his family’s company when he joined the White House, but he reportedly still owns large stakes in the company. According to the New York Times, he gave up his stake in the midtown property by selling it into a trust controlled by his mother.

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Desperate House Republican leaders are trying to talk their moderate faction out of pushing for an immigration debate by threatening midterm losses and a fractured party, according to a Wednesday Washington Post report.

The campaign reportedly ramped up Wednesday morning in a closed-door meeting when Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) cited the bevy of dire political consequences bringing up such a hot-button issue before the midterms could have.

It continued that evening, when he was joined by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to cajole leaders of the movement away from their plan with promises that talks are happening at the highest levels to bring immigration bills to the floor.

House Republicans were not swayed. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who initially filed the discharge petition to kickstart the bill votes, reportedly said that the leaders lacked solid plans and that the petition effort would continue.

Per the Washington Post, two more Republicans—Reps. John Katko (NY) and David Trott (MI)—signed the petition Wednesday, affixing the 19th and 20th Republican signatures. With all Democrats presumably on board, the petition requires five more Republican names to pass.

On the other wing of the Republican Party, the House Freedom Caucus is reportedly threatening to hold up passage of a farm bill this week until a conservative immigration bill is let onto the floor. Per the Washington Post, some believe that bringing the bill to the floor would effectively kill the discharge petition.

Ryan and McCarthy reportedly met with President Donald Trump Tuesday to brainstorm solutions to the immigration schism within the party.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray reiterated his position that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe is not a witch hunt in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, continuing to stake a position opposite to President Donald Trump’s.

According to a Wednesday CNN report, in reply to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) about if Wray still stands by his confirmation position that the probe is not a witch hunt, Wray answered succinctly: “yes.”

Wray also reportedly defended the agency as a whole against Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and other House Republicans who accuse the Justice Department of withholding documents under false pretenses of source endangerment.

“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” Wray reportedly said. “Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families.”

When asked about his reaction to more of the President’s recent criticism, Wray dodged the questions, largely sticking to praise of the agency and its work.

On Thursday, Trump sent out a morning tweet about Mueller’s investigation in the well-worn “witch hunt” vein.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is dangling the threat of canceling the Senate’s August recess to pressure Democrats eager to get back to their hometown campaign trails, on key votes, according to a Wednesday Politico report.

McConnell is reportedly planning to meet with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President Donald Trump to see if he can negotiate with Schumer to get nominees confirmed and a spending bill passed in exchange for a ceasefire from Trump in attacking the Senate and it’s four-week break.

Sixteen Republican senators signed a letter last week urging McConnell to cancel the recess to force Democrats’ hand. They say that they want to forego the break to get work done amid “historic obstruction” from the Democrats.

However, the fact that ten Democrats are up for reelection this year in states won by Trump certainly factors in. Only one Republican, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), is up in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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